A rusty spiral staircase creaked under the combined weight of Janice and Tameka, who creaked under the combined weight of a player piano and 200 rolls of music. “Sonofabitch, this thing is heavy. Why can’t we leave it on the first floor, and pump the sound up with speakers?”

 

“Nautical tradition,” Tameka said. “If you’re turning a lighthouse into a player-pianohouse, you’ve got to use the same room.” Warped floorboards danced the Charleston as Janice and Tameka sloughed the piano off their shoulders.

 

Tameka slapped a three-ring binder the size of the Oxford Dictionary of Internet Memes (Unabridged) into Janice’s midsection. “Here’s your audio semaphore handbook. Which tunes to play as alerts for different kinds of weather. Rhapsody in Blue for winds between 10 and 15 knots, Mozart Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major for aggressive ducks in mating season. And so forth.”

 

Janice collapsed to the floor. She opened the binder, and sobbed. “There’s no way I can learn all this.”

 

Tameka waved as she marched down the steps. “Get cracking. Sunset’s in four hours.”

 

*******

 

Strains of My Boyfriend’s Back blasted from speakers clinging to the former lighthouse exterior. Janice dashed between the portable weather observatory, the portable amorous waterfowl observatory, and the piano. Sweat trickled from every pore, smudging the shorthand crib notes she had written on her hands, arms, and abdomen.

 

Janice ignored the banging from the front door for five minutes. When her irritation at the incessant pounding swamped her irritation at the ever-shifting demands on a player-pianohouse keeper, she let fly a string of top-shelf swear words, and yanked the knob hard enough to grate sparks from the hinges. A gaggle of sailors tumbled through the opening. “We heard you playing YMCA. Where’s the free Jell-O shooters?”

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